The nitty gritty: Emotional stress after giving birth

The first few weeks after giving birth can be a rollercoaster — caring for a brand new little life all while experiencing elevated hormone levels, stress, and lack of sleep can make this time…overwhelming to say the least.

For many new parents, the reality of the first few weeks looks different than they had expected. Even if you have an older sibling(s) at home, adding another child to the mix likely comes with unanticipated challenges. It is normal to feel a multitude of emotions after delivery: joy, relief, gratitude, and excitement are common, but worry, fatigue, and sadness are too. Giving birth and becoming a parent is emotionally-taxing and having conflicting emotions during postpartum is normal. Most new moms will experience some negative feelings or mood swings after giving birth. These feelings are commonly referred to as the “baby blues,” and lessen after a few weeks.

Postpartum depression (PPD) is not the same as the baby blues. PPD affects 15% of women, can start any time after childbirth, and typically begin after 1-3 weeks. If you think you might be experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, or PTSD, reach out to your healthcare provider or call the hotline at Postpartum Support International. You can also visit the PSI Directory for help finding a provider who specializes in perinatal mood disorders. More resources here. The emotional changes of PPD affect both new mothers and their partners.

Common issues

Lack of sleep

A newborn doesn’t usually sleep through the night until they are at least three months old. Frequent night-feedings and soothings may be essential for baby, but they can be a difficult adjustment for new parents.

Parental anxiety

Many new parents experience concern about their new baby. Caring for a newborn, who depends on you entirely, is something that you can never fully prepare for. In the first few weeks it’s easy to feel like you aren’t doing everything right or to worry about the baby’s safety. While you’ll likely never completely stop worrying about your little one, the worry of the first few weeks should dissipate as you and your little one settle into a routine.

Changes in relationships

Despite their small size, babies make a huge impact. Having a newborn can affect new parents’ relationships with family, friends, and each other. New parents usually have less time and energy for socializing or maintaining their love life. This can heighten mood swings and cause some negative feelings.

Bodily changes

Your body goes through an enormous change to carry and birth a child. Many women struggle to feel like themselves throughout these changes, but be gentle on yourself, recovery takes time. You’ve brought a whole new person into the world!

New parents have to make a lot of adjustments in a short amount of time. Give yourself and your partner grace, especially during the first few weeks postpartum. It is normal to cycle through a range of moods while adjusting to parenthood.

What you can do

If you have a support system, accept help

Letting a family member, friend, or caregiver babysit for a night or two so you can get a full night of sleep can improve your mood and help alleviate symptoms of separation anxiety. Friends or family can also help with other necessities, like cleaning or cooking dinner. Give yourself one less thing to worry about.

Practice open communication

Sometimes just talking through your feelings can begin to help you feel better. Talking with your partner or another support person can strengthen your relationship and lead to more long-term solutions.

Build a community

Connect with other new parents. They’re likely going through many of the same feelings and experiences. And they’ll understand your schedule constraints in ways your other friends may not.

Speak with a professional

If you are concerned about postpartum depression or anxiety, seek help. Visit the PSI provider directory to find someone near you with expertise in these conditions. Help is available. There is hope.

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team


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